Seize Opportunities

By: Lavlet Forde ’01, Registered Psychotherapist, George Brown College

Since completing my BA at King’s, I’ve learned a lot of lessons – both through further studies and life experiences. “Seize opportunities that come your way” is one life lesson I hold onto tightly. I enjoyed my studies at King’s and was actively involved as a Residence Assistant, a Research Assistant, a member of the KUCSC and a work-study student in Alumni and Foundation.

My parents immigrated to Canada in the 70’s from Jamaica and Barbados, and as the first generation to be born in Canada they eagerly encouraged me to take every opportunity that I could.  As immigrants, they could not fully understand how one would not pursue opportunities that were presented to them. My parents would often say to me, “If there is an opportunity, go for it. If you don’t succeed that’s okay, there is still something to gain. But if you don’t try you will never know what the outcome could have been.”

Pursuing opportunities has taken me down many different paths. It led me to complete my MA in Counselling, which then brought me to my first professional job as a family therapist in a mental health agency for children and adolescents. Working as a family therapist was both challenging and rewarding. My supervisor was fair, stern and supportive, and still to this day I am so thankful for her guidance and direction. That job led to my current role at George Brown College as a Registered Psychotherapist working with students to assist with their personal, mental health and academic concerns.

While working at George Brown, I had a strong desire to re-immerse myself into the world of research. I had missed that aspect of my studies and wanted to further expand my skills as a psychotherapist. I decided to take on the sole project of completing a qualitative phenomenology study on a small psycho-education program called For You. I think sometimes it is a blessing in disguise when you don’t realize how big of a task you are taking on.

The focus of this research was on the unique, experiential psycho-educational college program at George Brown College. This specialized program assisted individuals with mental health disorders and/or an addiction to find balance as they transitioned into post-secondary education, employment, or volunteer work. The purpose of the study was to recognize and document changes that may occur for an individual who participated in the For You program. The results showed that this program had a profound effect on students.

After presenting my research at a few conferences in the Toronto area, I decided to apply to an international conference hosted by the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy at the University of Chester in England. “Why not,” I thought, “I won’t know unless I try.” I put together my application and to my surprise was accepted to present.

Since then, I have decided to take a sabbatical to continue my research. My sabbatical work has taken me to different places, most recently travelling to Jamaica where I am completing site visits at different colleges and universities to learn about wellness from a multicultural perspective.

Travelling and completing academic work has been challenging, but I continue to learn and practice strategies to balance both. My advice: develop a good routine, create a workspace, and don’t sweat the small stuff. You can’t control everything. Some things are bound to go right and some things will go wrong, but if you seize the opportunities that come your way, you never know where you may end up.

This article appeared in the spring 2018 issue of the King's Herald